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Sommer (summer) has come, and it is strawberry season in Denmark! Although some people take pride in growing their own strawberries in their haver (garden lots), most jordbær are gathered in special fields in the countryside. The island of Samsø, situated between the peninsula Jutland and the main island Zealand, has a particularly rich soil and is literally drowning in strawberries these days! If you would like to experience the true sense of the Beatles song Strawberry fields forever, how about going strawberry picking in Samsø next year?
The word jordbær (pronounced like ”yore bear”) literally means ”earth berry”, being a compound of jord, ’earth’, and bær, ’berry’. It is one of those rather few Danish words that doesn’t change or has any ending added in the plural. So you just count: 1 jordbær, 2, jordbær, 164 jordbær… (If you can pick that many!)
Jordbær are typically eaten with mælk and sukker (I don’t have to translate those, do I?), occasionally with fløde (cream) instead of milk. Some people eat them with flødeis (milk-based ice cream), which is a real treat! Like in many other countries, strawberries can of course also be an ingredient in kager (cakes) and drinks (yes, that one’s a loan from English).
One of the strawberry dishes you are most likely to hear about – and least likely to taste – is, however, rødgrød med fløde. As rød means ’red’ and grød means ’porridge’, I am sure you can already make out that it must be some kind of ”red porridge with cream”! My dictionary suggests the translation ”red fruit pudding”. It is some kind of dessert, often containing strawberries and other bær. We rarely eat it, but talk a lot about it to foreigners!
You see, Danes love pulling outsiders’ legs – especially when it comes to the notoriously hard-to-pronounce Danish language. Show a Dane some interest in her language, and I bet she’ll sooner or later ask you to pronounce rødgrød med fløde! And she’ll love to watch you struggling with the sounds, every time getting a bit closer! 🙂
Don’t despair – Danish isn’t at all that hard, just offbeat. Let’s pass through this together:
• fløde – the ø is pronounced like ö in German or eu in French. Saying the word ”fletch” with pouted lips will give you an idea. The final e should be pronounced weakly, like the e in ”the moon”
• med fløde – pronounce the d’s like the ’th’ in ”mother”, but further back in the mouth and more relaxed
• rødgrød med fløde – the r’s are in the throat like most German r’s, but weaker; imagine you whisper the Scottish ch sound in Loch Ness. Furthermore, the Danish r’s tend to open up the neighbouring vowels, so the ø’s of rødgrød sound very much like the i in Sir.
Now take a strawberry!